Back to Basics? NATO s Summit in Warsaw. Report

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1 INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR Back to Basics? NATO s Summit in Warsaw Friday, 3 June 2016 Press Centre Nieuwspoort, The Hague Report On Friday, 3 June The Netherlands Atlantic Association organized a seminar in Press Centre Nieuwspoort on the upcoming NATO Summit of Heads of State and Government in Warsaw (8-9 July). At this seminar, four experts from both sides of the Atlantic discussed the Summit s agenda and beyond. Speakers were: Timo Koster (Director of Defence Policy and Capabilities at NATO Headquarters in Brussels), Marcin Terlikowski (Head of the European Security and Defence Economics Project at the Polish Institute of International Affairs), Leo Michel (Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington D.C.) and John Vinocur (journalist and columnist at the Wall Street Journal. Diplomatic expert Robert van de Roer moderated the seminar, which was attended by some 100 participants. Session I Timo Koster told the audience about the basic decisions that were made at the Wales Summit of 2014 and what NATO has learned since this summit. The Wales Summit served as a reaction to the new challenges in NATO s security environment, like the aggressive behavior of Russia and influx of migrants in the South of Europe. At the summit, NATO formulated an immediate answer to the events in Eastern Europe. The Alliance decided to take assurance measures like providing more 1

2 military presence in this area, practicing air policing and military exercises, and reforming the NATO Response Force. A spearhead force of the NATO Response Force is the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) that would be ready to deploy in two to three days to reinforce the allies in the east. Beside this, leaders of the member states pledged to raise their defense spending. Since this summit, the alliance has learned a few lessons. One is, that it is difficult to speed up rapid enforcement because the process of decision making takes a lot of time. This is unpractical in the case of an Article 5 scenario. NATO therefore has changed its crisis management response manual and has improved its indication and warning in order to support fast decision making. In order to foster its speed, NATO also realized that it has to have plans in advance for a possible defense of an eastern ally and that it has to create favorable conditions to move troops from one place to another place. Another lesson is that NATO has to learn how to deal with conflicts that cover more than just one dimension. With regard to the behavior of Russia, the alliance has perceived that it has to relearn to compete with its opponent for escalation dominance. Russia has a clear doctrine that spells out how it escalates across the spectrum from conventional to nuclear. NATO however has strictly separated its conventional and nuclear doctrines and should rethink those kind of concepts. The Alliance also has also perceived that is a challenge to deal with an opponent that does not observe the international laws and conventions. Mister Koster expected that all of this will lead to landmark decisions at the Warsaw Summit. NATO will reemphasize the issue of defense spending and will again urge its allies to invest more in defense spending. Furthermore, NATO will redefine its deterrence and defense posture. There will be a continuous military presence of some kind in the Baltic states and Poland, for example. NATO will also emphasize the need for coherence, not only on the national level, but also in the efforts of NATO and in the relationship between NATO and organizations like the EU. At the summit in Warsaw, NATO will also make announcements about other ongoing operations and it will make a clear statement that the door for new member states remains open. After his introduction, Robert van de Roer asked Mr. Koster if the word opponent is now an official term that NATO uses to designate Russia. Koster explained that since Russia behaves as an opponent to NATO, it is plausible to use this term. When asked about the four battalions that will presumably protect the eastern member states, he answered that it is 2

3 likely that the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom will take this responsibility in the Baltic States. NATO is working to find an ally which could lead a battalion in Poland. Marcin Terlikowski stated in his speech that the wider audience that is interested in defense matters perceives the upcoming Warsaw Summit in a different way than other summits. The popular expectation is that NATO will show its readiness to defend its allies in the east and that the summit will confirm that there has been shift in NATO s response to Russia s behavior. The summit is also seen as a first step in process of making the Alliance more capable to face military threats. Russia will be a threat that for the moment will not go away. In order to be able to deal with these threats, NATO has to close the gaps in its defense capabilities. Mr. Terlikowski explained that the allies in Eastern and Central Europe experience a threat, because the Ukraine crisis has shown that Russia is willing to use military tools to safeguard its interests in its direct neighborhood. It has made clear that it sees Eastern Europe as a buffer zone were the West shouldn t be present. For the allies in the east, this means that they feel limited in their choice to make the kind of alliances that they want to make. They perceive the actions of Russia as part of a long term strategy to re-establish the order of the Cold War. Therefore, in this case NATO should respond, because it was founded to preserve peace in Europe. Furthermore, the Alliance should implement the philosophy that the more it is able and willing to respond to a possible crisis, the less likely it is that this crisis will actually happen. Despite the gravity of the situation in the east, it is the less difficult challenge for NATO simply because the Alliance knows how the operate here. The threats from North Africa, the Sahel and the Middle East are far more problematic for NATO since the Alliance is not equipped to deal with the crises in this regions. However, NATO can use its capabilities and skills to enable other organizations to address these challenges. It is important to define what NATO can and cannot do in order to preserve the core values of the alliance. After his speech, Robert van de Roer asked Mr. Terlikowski how great the fear for Russia is in Poland. Terlikowski explained that Poland does not fear a Russian invasion in its country, but it does fear a limited provocation towards the Baltic states. If this happens, and NATO appears to be unable to respond in an effective way, the Americans will perceive this as a message that they cannot rely on this trans-atlantic partnership. Terlikowski also made clear that stationing of military troops in the east will not be sufficient in the case of an conventional war, but that it will give the Alliance political room for taking action. 3

4 Session II Leo Michel looked at the Warsaw Summit from an American point of view. He stated that he has little doubt that president Putin will continue to have strategic aspirations to weaken the Alliance. Therefore NATO has to be able to defend its allies, and it is about to take steps to that effect, like the stationing of troops in the Baltics and Poland. The question is whether these troops will stay in this area permanently. Mr. Michel believed that they will be there for a long time anyway. When it comes to facing the Russian threat it is not only important to have capabilities or to plan, but also to exercise. The Alliance has to demonstrate that it can respond quickly and exercises are one way of doing this. In the case of exercise mister Michel supported the idea to let Americans train in Europe. For this arrangements have to be made. There is wide support for increased American presence in Europe and president Obama has announced that the US will invest in exercises in Europe in On the other hand, the Americans will look closely on how the European allies will handle their investments in defense spending. Burden sharing is important for American political support for the defense of Europe. Mr. Michel also addressed the nuclear aspect of deterrence. Russia has modernized its nuclear weapons, but NATO has not said very much about this. It is likely that NATO will strengthen its own nuclear policy and remind the public that nuclear weapons have played and will continue to play a stabilizing role in terms of security. Mr. Michel stressed that in all of these measures NATO has to keep open its lines of communication with Russia to prevent accidents. Finally Mr. Michel addressed the transatlantic relationship. He said he understood why some Europeans are concerned about some of the statements of the candidates for the presidency, but he wanted to reassure them that the appeals for an Americans first strategy do not represent the core principles of American foreign policy. John Vinocur warned that his approach would differ from that of the other speakers. He talked about topics that are likely not be mentioned at the Warsaw Summit. The first topic concerned the attitude of president Obama towards Europe. According to Mr. Vinocur Obama is the president with the least affection for Europe for a long time. He showed not much interest in the aspirations of European allies to intervene in conflicts in the world. When for example France intended to intervene in Mali in 2013, the Americans were reluctant to support them. For the French this was a negative experience. This proved to them that their relationship with the United States is unreliable. 4

5 Looking at the other side of the Atlantic. Mr. Vinocur pointed out that Germany plays an ambivalent role in NATO s response to the Russia. To him it looks like the Germans do not perceive the seriousness of the situation. The German foreign minister has proposed a decrease of the sanctions for Russia and still hopes on a positive sign from Russia. Furthermore the Germans are reluctant to speak about the nuclear threat from Russia. This is why it is unlikely that nuclear issues will be discussed at the Warsaw Summit. The Alliance knows that its members are divided about this subject and will therefore avoid to talk about it. Akanke Vreugd 5

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